I try to take a long walk every day, but sometimes I need to bribe myself a little. Getting absorbed in a good podcast encourages me to stay out for longer stretches.
It’s probably not a surprise that I am drawn to health and wellness podcasts — ones that are entertaining and enlightening but firmly grounded in science (no hacks or ads for dubious supplements).
So I’ve decided to share a dozen of my favorites: Some offer advice for better living, others pull back the curtain on health care, and a few explore mental health and relationships through candid interviews.
You can listen to them on the audio platform of your choice (Apple podcasts and Google podcasts are both good options, and I’ve created a Spotify playlist for you). And if you have a podcast you love that I didn’t mention, drop me a line — I’m always on the lookout for recommendations.
1. ‘The Nocturnists’
Emily Silverman, an internal medicine physician at the University of California San Francisco, aims to humanize the practice of medicine by having health care workers share their most challenging experiences.
Starter episodes: “Hello, Shame” and “The Ideal Doctor” are the first two installments of “Shame in Medicine: The Lost Forest,” an engrossing 10-part series that explores how humiliation and self-doubt manifest in medical culture.
2. ‘Speaking of Psychology’
I learn something every time I listen to this lively podcast from the American Psychological Association, hosted by Kim I. Mills. Episodes tackle fascinating topics like why kids lie, the psychology of superstition, and "super-recognizers,” who never forget a face; the guests are top experts in their fields.
Starter episodes: “Understanding medical marijuana, CBD and more, with Ziva Cooper, Ph.D.,” explores the use of cannabis for conditions like pain and anxiety; “Why we procrastinate and what to do about it, with Fuschia Sirois, Ph.D.,” examines how stalling and delaying affect your mental health.
3. ‘The Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous’
Monica Reinagel’s bona fides include a master’s degree in human nutrition and a decade-long stint writing articles for Scientific American (the term “diva” refers to her earlier career as an opera singer). In easy 10-minute segments, she deconstructs, without judgment, the nutrition fads sweeping social media.
Starter episodes: “Are saturated fats from plants healthier?” and “Is lean protein really better for you?” both land on a scientifically nuanced answer: Sometimes.
4. ‘70 Over 70’
“You know those ‘30 over 30’ lists that make you feel kind of inadequate and terrible?” Max Linsky asks in the podcast trailer. “This is going to be the opposite of that.” In a series of candid conversations, Linsky and various over-70 luminaries explore what it means to live well later in life. I always come away inspired.
Starter episodes: “‘I’m Tired of Waiting’ with James Hong” explores why the actor continues to pursue his dream of playing the lead role in a movie. In “‘Everybody’s Job Changes’ with Nikki Giovanni,” the poet explains her decision to let the next generation of activists take the lead.
5. ‘An Arm and a Leg’
This podcast asks: Why does health care cost so much? And how do you fight an outrageous medical bill? Dan Weissmann, the host and a former reporter for Chicago’s WBEZ, packs this show with useful advice from experts on how to fight “gotcha” bills from hospitals and insurance companies and the best methods to deal with relentless medical debt collectors. He also interviews listeners who have taken on the health care system.
Starter episodes: “The bill looked like BS. So she took it to small claims court” recounts a listener’s experience suing a hospital — and what she learned. “Want to write a killer letter to insurance? Meet Jeannine” is a tutorial from a former health insurance employee who saved her adult son $14,000.
6. ‘Terrible, Thanks for Asking’
Nora McInerny, an author and self-described “reluctant grief expert,” treats listeners to refreshingly honest conversations about how people are really doing. She interviews people who have endured transformative events, like the death of a loved one, as well as experts such as Susan David, a psychologist who assails the tyranny of “toxic positivity.”
Starter episodes: “A Life Interrupted with Suleika Jaouad” is a candid conversation with the author of “Between Two Kingdoms,” a memoir about cancer survival and the return to a “normal” life. In “Army Wife,” McInerny speaks with a military spouse whose husband died by suicide.
7. ‘Tara Brach’
Peace settles over me when I hear Tara Brach, a psychologist, meditation teacher and author of “Radical Acceptance.” During each episode, she shares a guided meditation — with tempting titles like “Opening to Full Aliveness” and “Befriending Your Inner Life” — and an incisive talk on how to connect mindfully with others and yourself.
Starter Episodes: “Trusting the Gold — Realizing Our Basic Goodness” includes an exercise that helps you access your compassion for one person, eventually expanding it outward. “Navigating Conflict with a Wise Heart — Part 1” is a guide to communicating intentionally when things get heated.
8. ‘Butts & Guts’
This podcast boasts an irresistible title and focuses on your “digestive and surgical health from end to end.” The host, Dr. Scott Steele, who is the chairman of colorectal surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, chats easily with a variety of specialists about some of our most intimate functions.
Starter Episodes: “Constipation and Other Common GI Problems in Children” and “Diet and Lifestyle Changes to Address Erectile Dysfunction” provide straightforward advice and actionable tips that don’t feel daunting.
9. ‘Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause’
Menopause is not just about hormone replacement and hot flashes; it’s a physical, cultural and political experience. Omisade Burney-Scott, host of this outstanding podcast, creates a warm space for Black women to share their stories and to discuss issues such as intimacy, vulnerability, race and shifting identity. Research shows that Black women experience menopause differently; I listen to learn.
Starter Episodes: “All You Gotta Do Is Say ‘Yes’!” explores sex, pleasure and the menopausal body; “Is There a Doctor in the House?” includes wide-ranging interviews with Dr. Cindy Duke and Dr. Arianna Sholes-Douglas, two physicians who focus on reproductive health.
10. ‘Ten Percent Happier’
Dan Harris, a journalist and former news anchor, may be a mindfulness convert (after a very public panic attack on live television), but he is the opposite of woo-woo. On this long-running podcast, the refreshingly blunt host quizzes scientists, researchers and authors on how to be less stressed and more resilient.
Starter Episodes: “How to Handle Dread, with Saleem Reshamwala” is full of techniques to manage foreboding. “How to Create an Exercise Habit Without Driving Yourself Nuts, with Kelly McGonigal” includes research-based strategies for how to fall in love with movement.
11. ‘BBC Inside Health’
Can magic mushrooms help your mental health? How healthy are ultraprocessed vegan and vegetarian foods? Are sperm counts falling? This rigorously reported half-hour series, hosted by James Gallagher, a BBC health and science correspondent, breaks down the research behind confusing (and conflicting) health advice.
Starter episodes: “The Power of the Dog” investigates the claim that our four-legged friends make us live longer; “How’s Your Hay Fever?” features a comprehensive guide to sneezing season and explores whether or not we’re close to a cure for the condition.
12. ‘Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel’
In this podcast, the psychotherapist Esther Perel, author of “Mating in Captivity,” conducts counseling sessions with real couples. Listening to these incredibly intimate sessions in less skilled hands would feel voyeuristic, but Dr. Perel turns each episode into a profound learning experience for both subjects and the listener.
Starter episodes: “The Chronic Philanderer” examines how a husband’s affairs affect not just his wife but also his daughters; “He Loves Her, His Family Rejects Her” tells the story of a woman who left her native Brazil to marry a man in small-town U.S.A. — and the friction that ensued.
Bacteria and breast pumps: How to avoid contamination
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new report urging parents and caregivers to carefully clean breast pump equipment, after a baby died last year from a rare bacterial infection called Cronobacter sakazakii. It can cause fatal meningitis and sepsis in young infants, but the C.D.C. estimates that there are only around 18 such cases each year in the United States. Catherine Pearson explains what we know about the bacteria and how to prevent infection.
Read the story: What Parents Should Know About Bacteria and Breast Pumps
More men are forging a new grandparenting path.
The old stereotype of the checked-out grandfather may be fading, as many men seek to be more engaged and enthusiastic grandpas. Paula Span details the ways they are becoming more hands-on — such as being “master of the sleepover,” vacationing together or watching episodes of “Bluey” (the adventures of an energetic blue heeler puppy).
Read the story: Learning to Become a Better Grandfather
The Week in Well
Here are some stories you don’t want to miss:
The medical tourism industry is under scrutiny after a kidnapping in Mexico, Dani Blum and Erik Vance report.
Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton, shares how her chronic pain from lupus was routinely dismissed by doctors.
Setting boundaries with family members is tough — but not impossible. Nedra Glover Tawwab, a therapist and best-selling author, discusses helpful strategies with Catherine Pearson.
Is cannabis helpful for sleep? Hannah Seo asks the experts.
From Opinion: Sign up for Times Opinion’s limited-run newsletter for more insights and guidance on preparing for the next pandemic.
Let’s keep the conversation going. Follow Well on Instagram, or write to me at [email protected]
Thank you for being a subscriber
Read past editions of the newsletter here.
If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to others. They can sign up here. Browse all of our subscriber-only newsletters here.
Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]